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The Fourth of July, 2010: Independence Day

John Trumbull's 1818 painting of the signing of the Declaration of IndepenceOn July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.  See an image of the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the nation. In 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly-independent nation was 2.5 million. This year, the Department of Commerce’s Census Bureau estimate is 309.6 million.

For fascinating figures on the Fourth’s fireworks, flags, fanfares, firings (grills) and more, see the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features.

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American Revolution

This year’s 4th of July celebration was a little different. I mean, we had the regular backyard barbecues and fireworks and all. But this year, some of us got together and did a reading of The Declaration of Independence. It was not my idea but I went along with it anyway. We went through it line by line, word by word, and slowly the importance of these words and the times they were written in, began to dawn on us. We all felt so humbled. The friend who had initiated this reading had read up on the American Revolution on Shmoop and that really helped us put things in perspective and understand our heritage better—Now that’s something we need to take a moment to think about more often than we do.